Top positive review
Wonderful Book about Language, Outdated Information about Deaf Culture
Reviewed in the United States on September 14, 2015
As a Deaf woman, I was curious about how the renown neurologist Oliver Sacks viewed the Deaf culture and its language. I wasn't disappointed at all in his examination of language, but his analysis of Deaf culture left me wanting.
Oliver Sacks begins with an examination of how deafness--and sign language--affects the cognitive and linguistic development of deaf children. Through Oliver Sacks, we meet the language-less Joseph, the inhibited deaf schoolchildren, and the vivacious and precocious Charlotte. It becomes increasingly clear was we read that it is not deafness per se to blame for some deaf people's linguistic deficiencies, it is the inadequacy of some deaf children's linguistic environment. He makes a strong case for ASL as a legitimate--vivid, even--resource for deaf children. (All of this was something I already knew, interacting with many Deaf people, but it was great to have someone confirm it!)
This book, however, is called "A Journey into the Deaf World," but its exploration of cultural issues is quite lacking. I can't blame Sacks for this, as he's a neurologist, not a sociologist. His outsider account of the historic Deaf President Now protests at Gallaudet is definitely worth a read. Sack's writing skill gives us a taste of what it was like to be there. Yet, that's where his insights on Deaf culture ends. As an outsider, it's difficult for Sacks to really capture the feel and vibrancy of the culture that he cannot participate in, being a non-signer.
This book was written 25 years ago, so its cultural perspective is especially outdated (not its linguistic ones, however). In 1990, there were no pediatric cochlear implants. There was no mainstreaming policy. DPN is now a very old victory.
This is an excellent book on language acquisition issues facing deaf children and ASL, but simply outdated for the issues facing Deaf culture.